A Watered Down Ceremony
by Stuart Singer, The Teacher Leader
It all started so beautifully. At precisely 7:30 p.m. the processional began with the chords of “Pomp and Circumstance” pouring out of the PA system surrounding the football field. The class of 1988 led by a full slate of dignitaries moved around the track in perfect time with the music. It was a magnificent night with a glorious sunset soon to commence as a soft, warm breeze cooled the hundreds of spectators in the stands.
After the commencement speech was completed and the graduates were about to be introduced the unraveling began. Due to a lack of security in front of the stadium bleachers a few individuals had come onto the field to take pictures of relatives crossing the stage. Not surprisingly this trickle of photographers soon turned into a jailbreak. Spectators began pouring onto the field. Worse, after taking their pictures they realized they had the best seats in the house and choose to sit on blankets while casually eating and chatting. The first Frisbee was spotted as students with names starting with “G” were being called. By the time the roll reached “M” the event looked more like a huge picnic than a graduation ceremony. Soon the ugliness began to increase exponentially. The crowd began to expand so close to the actual ceremonies that the teachers had to form a human barricade to impede their movement. Notes passed to the administrators on the stage were to no avail as verbal altercations between the two groups began to escalate.
Finally after a faculty member called the principal out of his seat and warned him of the danger, an announcement was made to instruct the crowd to move back. While few heeded the directive to return to the stands, the crowd’s forward movement stopped. Mercifully the final senior diploma was awarded, caps were thrown into the air and the crisis was over. But bruised feelings were still abundant as faculty members and families fumed over the chaos that never should have occurred.
After the ceremony was complete I was able to relax for the first time in over an hour. But while the nightmare was over, I could not shake the feeling that I had just witnessed the worst graduation ceremony in history. While that was perhaps a bit of hyperbole, as I walked across the football field, a laundry list of complaints to be presented to the principal was being formulated in my mind. I was interrupted in my journey by a member of Congress whose son was in the graduating class. We exchanged pleasantries while ignoring the events of the previous hour. Suddenly the unfathomable happened. Because it began so slowly and unexpectedly at first it was unclear exactly what was occurring. I felt a few drops of moisture on my face and instinctively looked up at the cloudless sky. But the intensity of the precipitation increased. The unfathomable was now the reality. It was 9:30 p.m. and the athletic director had neglected to turn off the automatic timer for the field’s watering system. Within a few minutes as if on cue from some diabolical director, the thousand people on the field were immersed in a watery “up pour”. I glanced at the Representative, a future candidate for President and still wearing her gown as a part of the stage dignities, and saw that she along with everyone else had been quickly drenched.
Officially and without fear of hyperbole, it was now the worst graduation ceremony ever.